Friday, November 28, 2008
Today, we're supposed to take Mrs VF's nephews to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty where we will meet some old friends from Seattle. Tomorrow, I'm going to put the kids to work cleaning the gutters and picking up dog poop in the back yard. I'll pay them, Mrs VF will give them some cash for Christmas, and we'll take them to the mall to spend it. If that doesn't jump start the economy, I don't know what else we can do. We'll also patronize the Cold Stone Creamery and the Buffet next to the Good Will. Sunday, they'll be gone.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Or I'll get the trusty "if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys" argument. This, like the Chewbacca defense, is hard to rebut because it is nonsensical on so many levels. I don't usually bother. I don't care if yahoos believe in evolution or not because it isn't going to make any difference to anyone. It's not as if the world is losing some brilliant scientific minds or anything.
And let's say some local school system aims to teach "intelligent design". If they want to consign the children of their community to ignorance of scientific reasoning and principles, who am I to interfere? Those kids are probably pretty much doomed anyway, whether via nature or nurture, since they live in such a community. The smart ones, if there are any, will figure it out, and whether the rest have a grasp of science is of no consequence since they will never be called upon to do any scientific thinking in their whole lives.
I can see where a mischievous biology teacher could have a lot of fun with intelligent design in the classroom. He could give his pupils an assignment to design an experiment or research project that would use intelligent design theory to make predictions or that would support intelligent design. Then he'd give everyone who didn't problematize the theory an F.
If only there were grants for scientific research using intelligent design. I'd apply for one. I should qualify even though I'm not a professional scientist, because intelligent design is not even science.
Like Ehrman, I am drawn to the proposition that suffering is a mystery. Unlike Ehrman, I am resigned to it and too afraid to stand in any kind of judgment of God. The unsatisfactory account of suffering in the Bible is, I reckon, a failure of imagination and discernment on the part of Biblical authors and scholars, and it is up to us to reinterpret it in a way that makes sense.
These views of suffering continue to resonate. The primitive view of an alternatively approving and wrathful God is alive and well in the megachurches and among televangelists. The apocalyptic view is way too popular considering that the imminent end never comes.
I reckon that suffering is inherent in the human condition. This is what we are and how God has made us. A prerequisite condition to our existence as humans is a world with dangerous meteorological, geological, biological and social phenomena. These are the sine qua non of what we are. This is not to say that we do not condole with those who suffer. On the contrary, the work of the Kingdom is to mitigate suffering, to console the hurting and to transform the world into one where suffering is increasingly bearable. Let us not look to the next life; rather, let us, with joy and gratitude, embrace this life and make it the best life it can be.
We might never have existed at all, you know. We might never have become sentient and capable of experiencing suffering. God is not finished with humanity yet. He is not finished with me.
Monday, November 24, 2008
I've come across a few folks who have pondered moving to a gulch and withholding their "productivity". In most cases, I don't think the rest of the world would notice. Who are these so called "productive" people anyway? Bankers, lawyers, financiers, executives? Nah. We're all pretty much parasites, or at best symbiotes akin to the bacteria in our guts. We might add some value to the organism (or not) but we're not what drives it. The working and middle classes are the engine of prosperity. There's probably not a lot of Randians on the assembly line at GM, but I bet you'd find a few in the executive cafeteria driving the company into the ground.
I have been thinking about how our "contributions" to school taxes can be viewed as a kind of investment (it's involuntary, but I feel better if I can imagine a return). If we pay approximately $10,000 per year in school taxes and this pays to educate half of a child in our district, after 12 years of education and 4 years of college, we will have paid $155,000 (including a modest rate of interest). If the beneficiary starts paying into Social Security right away and we live just 25 years after retirement, we'll get our money back. Also other half students we have supported will be paying into the system, so we may very well come out ahead. Unless we die too soon. This way we get the benefit of children to support us in our old age without actually having to have any around. It's win-win.
Why does society let any business get "too big to fail"? Who benefits from the embiggening of companies? If we bail out the car companies, let's break them up into smaller entities.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Let us imagine the political spectrum as a straight line in keeping with the usual metaphor. If that line is infinite in length, as straight lines are, then any point on the line would be the "center" because there would be an infinite length on either side of the point. If America is even one point to the right, would that make it "Center-Right"? And what would that even mean? Nothing really unless you have some definition of the center.
Let's suppose instead that the political spectrum is a line segment with a finite length, in which case the center would be a point precisely halfway along the segment's length. The attributes of the center would depend on where one placed the end points of the segment. If I take the right hand point as National Socialism under Hitler and the left hand point as Hutterite communal society, where would America be? Would it be closer to Hutterite life or to Nazi Gemany? What if I take a Taliban-like theocratic tyranny as my right hand point and Western European Socialism as the left?
To compound the problem, how does one quantify degrees of leftness or rightness so as to render a precise measure of where the center is located?
And while we're at it, what does "America" mean? I hope I'm not Center-Right or any kind of right, and lots of folks I know who claim to be conservatives aren't really right wing at all when you examine their views. They're more like classical liberals.
I reckon America is Center-Left, and I am confident in this pronouncement because I realize that it is a meaningless statement.
Friday, November 21, 2008
This year, the Christmas Eve services are less of a show by the choir, so we won't have many difficult pieces to learn. Instead, we're doing more interesting music during the Sundays in Advent. I like this change. I'd much rather build up a better and bigger repertoire of anthems for Sundays than put on a musical extravaganza for the part time Christians who show up for Christmas Eve. Let's see if the carol singing and Christmas story don't inspire visitors more than what has been in the past pretty much a concert.
The choir works pretty hard, and I suppose that's a deterrent to new participants. The new choir member drive last year yielded one new regular, an outstanding soprano and flautist in her twenties. On the other hand, we seem to be losing one of the older sopranos. Oddly, sopranos have been in short supply of late, and the men have been at their full strength of seven singers. With an average age of 56 years, the men's section probably won't last long at this strength. I suppose as long as we can field an octet, we'll be OK.
There's no farm team. We have choirs for small children but no youth choir. The youth are doing their own thing at a Sunday evening service, and young adults have been spun off to a satellite. I reckon that older teenagers would be a huge asset to the choir if they could tolerate hanging with us codgers. Perhaps with outreach, some could be enticed to serve the church by enduring choir membership. We could at least find out what's keeping younger (30-50) singers away.
If we don't do something, the concept of the chancel choir might just fade away, and all we'll have left are contemporary groups leading praise songs. Man, I hate me some repititious praise songs, and I don't think I would be able to drag myself to a contemporary service week after week. I get enough Power Point at work, thank you very much.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Of course, my hypochondraic tendencies have emerged and are running at full speed. I'm a nervous wreck. I've avoided looking on the web for the possible significance of abnormal liver function readings becuae I know that I'll just hone in on the worst possible case and convince myself that I've got that.
When I was at the VA, I had to review medical records of veterans who were appealing decisions of the regional offices, and I invariably became convinced that I had whatever it was that the veteran I was working on had. This would go away when I got to the next case and discovered that I instead had what the new veteran had. Of course, I never had anything seriously wrong with me.
Unfortunately, I had a hiatal hernia, a condition which manifests itself with crushing chest pain radiating up the neck and feeling an awful lot like a heart attack. You can imagine that I was convinced that I was having a massive coronary when I had my first major attack. Later in life, I sometimes fretted that my hital hernia was masking a real heart problem and that I was dying of heart disease all along thinking I was having a bad case of indigestion. Of course, my EKGs have all been normal, and my chest pain never comes with exertion, just with eating too quickly or the wrong things.
My anxiety neurosis often manifests itself as physical symptoms such loose stool, irritable bowel, abdominal pains, headaches (brain tumors?), fatigue or tachycardia. If I didn't take Zoloft (ask your doctor if it's right for you) and an occasional Xanax, I'd be caught in a spiral of anxiety induced symptoms that I would interpret as deadly diseases that would elevate my anxiety in turn worsening the symptoms.
The weird thing is that I rarely go to the doctor for the symptoms that worry me, perhaps because I fear confirmation or because I know on some level that I'm just being nutty.
UPDATE: As I hoped, I just have to lay off the alcohol and retest.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Although this particular application was denied based on Polly's not having been enrolled in the tribe on a specified date, I have little reason to doubt Grandpappy Bayless's claims other than that the census taker in 1850 put her down as white. Polly's husband, Henry Edwards, and Polly were both born in North Carolina in about 1780 or so when the western part of the state was occupied primarily by the Cherokee. Intermarriage was not unusual among early settllers. Henry and Polly were early setlters in the Dahlonega area in the 1830s and moved further into Northwest Georgia as the Cherokees retreated. Since they were not inhabitants of the Cherokee nation and made no tribal claims, they were under no obligation to move when the tribe was evacuated to Oklahoma in the late 1830s. Their children and grandchildren passed for white. although that side of my family has long acknowledged Cherokee heritage even before it was fashionable to do so.
I hope someday to obtain confirmation of Bayless's claim, perhaps through DNA testing.
My genealogical research is difficult because so many of my ancestors were illiterate mountaineers who left few records of their marriages, births and deaths aside from long lost Bible entries. They certainly left no wills. So any information or documentation that I find is a treasure.
So, I wasn't lying when I filled out all those EEOC questionnaires by claiming that I'm multi-racial. I'm an African American because my ancestors came from Africa (60,000 years ago); I'm HIspanic because I had some ancestors from Spain (dating back to the 13th century); I'm Asian because my ancestors came from Asia (over the Bering Land Bridge 12,000 years ago), and I'm Native Americam because of Polly Redbird and possibly others. I haven't figured out a way to be Australian or Pacific Islander yet.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The wildfires in California? Caused by the gays, says Hartline:
"Each time homosexual activists attempt to force their agenda on California, there have been raging, massive, incinerating fires sweeping across the California landscape…
…The more that homosexual activists press their battle in California, the more there will be great calamaties (sic) in this state."
I have a few observations. Firstly, how does Hartline know that God is punishing California because of gays? Maybe He’s punishing California because of anti-gay activities by proponents of Prop 8. Maybe James Hartline is the cause of the fires and until he is run out of town calamities will ensue.
Secondly, there are always wildfires or earthquakes or mudslides or some such things in California, so gay advocacy or anti-gay advocacy and disasters coincide only because they coincide in what we sometimes refer to as coincidence, or the act of coinciding.
Thirdly, God ordained these fires from the beginning of time, and there was nothing anyone could have done to prevent them. James Hartline is a false prophet. He does not know the Mind of God.
"I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion."
This is among the stupidest things Newt Gingrich has ever said and wins him Douchebag of the Day!
If Newt reckons that gay folks’ boycotting people who worked to deprive them of their civil rights is fascism, he needs a better dictionary or to use the one that he has. Private, voluntary, peaceful action of this sort is just about as non-fascist as it gets. And what about "homophobic and religious fascism"? Wouldn’t gay haters who boycott Disney or McDonalds also be fascists by Newt’s reasoning?
Frankly, Newt sounds like the apologists for the slavocracy who fretted about abolitionists or segregationists who fretted about enlightened racial attitudes. In each case, the traditionalists (slaveowners, racists, homophobes) were already using the government to sustain their values (slavery, segregation, and discrimination based on sexual orientation) and characterized a potential loss of power as the other sides’ "use of government" to impose its will. The reactionaries are imposing their will, but that’s evidently OK.
Gays with equal rights pose no threat to traditional religion unless traditionalists consider it threatening to be held up to ridicule and contempt for their anachronistic opinions. When black folks were guaranteed civil rights, you could still be a racist bastard. There’s nobody standing in your way even now, but you no longer enjoy widespread acceptance of your views. When gays get equal rights, you can still be a gay hating loon, but you’re not going to get very many folks outside of your cult to respect your opinion.
Abraham Lincoln’s address at Cooper Union comes to mind. What, Lincoln asked, would satisfy the advocates of slavery?
"..what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated - we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas' new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us."
This is precisely what the authoritarians demand of us on the question of homosexuality. Not only must we tolerate their homophobia but we must affirm it with all our hearts. Otherwise, we are "fascists".
Sunday, November 16, 2008
How long is it appropriate to breastfeed? It's none of my frakking business, but it would not be outside the range of normal variation in higher primates to extend it for as much as four to five years. So, I'm not one to comment on Ms Hayek's preferences in this regard except to accept and affirm them as her choices to make. More power to her and her child.
Is it appropriate to admire the breasts of a lactating woman? It depends on how you express your admiration, I reckon, but it would be damn near impossible for me not to admire Ms Hayek's features. I have always admired her beauty and talent since I became aware of her. She is extremely attractive, and she is no less attractive now that she is lactating.
It’s a burning cross! The AFA sales pitch says it all:
"Decorate this holiday season with the Original Christmas Cross to remind your friends, family, neighbors, and all who drive by your home, office, or church of the real meaning of Christmas."
Hat tip to AMERICAblog http://www.americablog.com/2008/11/because-nothing-says-christmas-like.html
Friday, November 14, 2008
“Fiscal hawks and conservative supply siders notwithstanding, a major stimulus is in order. Government is the spender of last resort, and the nation is coming close to its last resort.”
The bailout of the tycoons isn’t going to shore up the economy. Consumer spending is the key to recovery, but consumers aren’t going to be spending if they fear for their jobs. So the government will have to step in and stimulate the economy and prime the job creation pump.
Like Reich, I’d like to see money spent on things that have lasting value, such as major infrastructure projects. It’s about time to build new bridges and tunnels and repair old ones. How about some monorails or super trains? Or hydrogen stations?
And if we run out of infrastructure, we can start beautifying our cities with fabulous monuments and statues and works of art and architecture for the ages. Pyramids would also be cool. And how about giving the wingers something and building that wall on the Mexican border? Let’s make it even more impressive than the Great Wall of China or Hadrian’s Wall. I’m talking something you can see from outer space.
Speaking of outer space, let’s ramp up exploration efforts and mine the moon.
These projects will employ a lot of people and will attract tourists for millennia. They’ll eventually pay for themselves.
Some new levees and fire breaks would be nice as well, and we’d save in the long run on flood and fire damage.
And how about free child care for everyone so they can all go to work and start spending again? Lots of jobs will be created for teachers and lunch ladies and janitors by such a program. And they’ll need houses and cars and consumer goods, too.
Legalize pot and put America’s farmers to work.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I've already put Mormons on my list. Now I'm adding the Catholic Church and their major backers. And the Christianist nutzoids in the religious right. When I figure out which products and services enrich these folks, I'm going to avoid them. No dollars for douchebags, say I.
The right wing outrage machine had that one covered in any event, and it is true that the US has been killing civilians in airstrikes. What strikes me is that we are supposed to be outraged not by the deaths of civilians but by mentioning the deaths of civilians.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Which is sillier? Believing in baptism by proxy or getting pissed about it even though you don't believe in it?
Besides, if the Mormons turn out to be right, our dead relatives will thank them.
Monday, November 10, 2008
He won a settlement from the Dalton police department a few years ago when he caught two officers on his security cameras breaking into his store and talking about how they were going to have to plant some drugs. The harassment was so bad that they closed the store and moved to Florida for a few years. They missed their families in North Georgia, however, so moved back to the area and opened a store in the suburbs of Chattanooga. Evidently, the Dalton cops got the East Ridge cops to pick up where they had left off.
I need to help them find a lawyer who would be willing to take on the East Ridge fuzz.
Maybe in soldiarity with gays, we straight folks could stop marrying and accepting the special privileges that the state grants to heterosexual couples. Or we could lobby the state to get out of the marriage business altogether. Who needs the state telling us whom to marry and what the marriage contract means? Get the state out of the divorce business as well. How would you like that, fundies?
I'm on board with the boycott of Utah on account of Mormon funding of Prop 8 in California, and when I find out which businesses contributed to the initiative, I'll boycott them, too.
I have come to believe strongly that Christians should be open and affirming toward our homosexual brothers and sisters. If we love them, we will want them to be happy. It's as simple as that.
At first, I thought he might have been smoking pot or something, because that's the kind of thing I tend to think of when I'm high. "Wow, isn't it amazing that our fingernails grow at just the perfect pace?" "Man, those stars are so huge and I'm so insignificant yet able to ponder my insignificance, something those stars can't do."
But then I realized he really meant it, and I understood what he was saying. He told a story of a woman in a prison camp who learned to thank God for fleas because the presence of fleas in her barracks had discouraged the guards from searching them and confiscating her Bible. Creation is a marvel, and we ought to be grateful.
Now, the preacher didn't get into things like being grateful for deadly viruses and tsunamis and such, but I could extrapolate from what he is saying that we ought to seek a way to be grateful, in some sense, for those things as well as for beautiful flowers, raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, and other favorite things.
As a Calvinist, I believe that everything that happens was foreordained from the beginning of time and that it is the will of God. Accordingly, even though I am unable to comprehend it or appreciate it, everything will ultimately work toward God's purposes.
I don't know that I will be able to be grateful for the disease that kills me or mine, but I hope that I will be resigned to it. What I can be grateful for is the fact that I ever existed at all. Every day is truly a gift. To be ungrateful is to focus on what I didn't get. "The power of flight would have been nice."
All I knew about the household came from the occasional glimpses of an eldely woman in a muumuu and the presence of a harpoon cannon in the front yard. Occasionally, the old man of the house would fire harpoons across the road at a target in the meadow. And they used to have a young woman in her twenties who would stand on the corner by the cattle farm with a backpack on and wave at all the cars all day. She's gone now. She wasn't right in the head folks say.
When they put up a McCain/Palin yard sign, I was not the least bit surprised. On the day after the election they put up a carefully stencilled sign that reads: "UNITED SOCIALIST STATES OF AMERICA OBAMA REDISTRIBUTOR IN CHIEF". It's still up. I just hope the dude doesn't start harpooning people.
At least now I know that the man with the junkyard is a good judge of character and that I don't need to worry about getting to know harpoon dude or his muumuu wearing mistress. .
Friday, November 07, 2008
I bet I really keep it up this time. With God's help, I will.
In my view, if you take out the unreachable authoritarian nutjobs from the equation, most of the rest of America pretty much agrees on just about everything that matters, at least to a close approximation. The country clunbbers and small government types have to recognize how toxic and dangerous their unholy alliance with the religious right was. And now the religious right is ranting about how the GOP lost because it wasn't crazy and authoritarian enough.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
There's a number of events that, if they had not occurred precisely as they did, would probably have meant that I would never have been born. Hitler and the Holocaust come to mind. If Hitler hadn't come to power and been a genocidal maniac, I wouldn't be here. Does that make it reasonable to argue that I'm better off because of Hitler and the Holocaust?
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Anthony seemed to suggest that racism was a thing of the past except among some "extremists" and that black folks should get over it. Now all their problems were their own fault. I know lots of folks who feel that way. They're all white and don't know any black people, so they don't know what the hell they're talking about.
They seem to think that black folks are trying to make them feel guilty for something they didn't do. They're wrong. It's not about guilt; it's about acknowledgement and understanding. Nobody wants their guilt, just for them to get their heads out of their asses. White folks who acknowledge racism and its legacy don't do it out of guilt; they do it because they have been informed and can't evade reality.
That Anthony really is a funny guy, but he's a nitwit about race.
I woke up to find that the GOP, which I despise, had been punished fairly sternly, but not as badly as I might have liked. I really wanted to see Saxby Chambliss and Ted Stevens go. I was also rooting for Al Franken. One of my Minnesotan friends tells me he suffered among some MInnesotans because he had used the "F-word" or an "Effenheimer" as my informant called it. Note to Minnesotans: It's OK to be nice, but don't be stupid about it.
Bummer about Prop 8.
I look forward to being disappointed by President Obama and the Democratic Congress.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
That said, if you're going to have a federal government with elected officials, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me for those elections to be run by county registrars and state secretaries of state with a wide variety of registration requirements and voting methods and allocation of resources among precincts. The helter skelter system in place today invites partisan abuses, fraud and voter suppression. A uniform set of standards for registration, ballots, voting systems, and allocation of voting machines/polling places among precincts would be reasonable for federal elections and would go a long way toward keeping voting and the counting of votes honest. It is possible that a single party could expropriate the process and turn the entire system into a farce, but I reckon it would be much harder to do this on a national level than it is on the local level. Besides, we're pretty much already there only with two parties with a monopoly on the ballot.
I favor early voting so that folks don't have to stand in line and so foul weather doesn't swing elections one way or the other. I can't vote early where I live, so I have to get to a polling place tomorrow come hell or high water. I reckon that voting booths and polling places should be distributed such that the ratio of voting booths to voters is pretty much the same everywhere (except in rural areas where you'd want to avoid having folks travel too far).
I favor loose registration requirements that allow folks to register as late as possible, even on election day. Hell, let's make it automatic for high school seniors and for soldiers and sailors when they sign up for school or service. I'm not too worried about folks' voting under assumed names, because both parties can play that game. Suppressing the votes of actual would be voters is a very much worse problem.
I used to be in favor of making voting more difficult, but that was just a way of undermining democracy. I'm still not a proponent of democracy, but I'd rather be up front about my position and let it prevail or fail on its merits.
I'd be interested to hear arguments against federalizing federal elections. It has never bothered me to be wrong; if it did I'd be a wreck.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
One of the assistant preachers was in the pulpit today, the one with the gift of prophecy. Boy did I feel like just about the crappiest Christian who ever lived when it was over. He really spoke the truth about our being, before anything else, citizens of the Kingdom of God with a calling to be different from the world, to love God and our neighbors in radical ways. He preached of implementing "Kingdom solutions" to various problems, all of which involved the Body of Christ acting freely in the spirit of love and service. For us, the election on November 4 is of tangential importance because there will still be work in the Kingdom to be done on November 5 and every day thereafter. I feel inspired to do something for someone, to open my heart to possibilities of service. Maybe this time the feeling won't pass so quickly, and I'll actually lift a finger to serve God and my conspecifics.
We had a last meeting of the faith and politics discussion group, the most satisfying so far because we got down to core issues about how to disagree with one another and how to find common ground through action. Nobody said a thing about the election, but we talked about how to put our faith into practice in addressing problems such as injustice, poverty, hunger, and all kinds of needs. We shared how overwhelming it all seems and how it might help to focus on meeting needs within the local community. We shared how being a better neighbor might be an excellent place to start.
The discussion was close to my heart in that we had a focus on voluntary, collaborative, non-coercive solutions informed by our faith. There was a substantial amount of common ground on this point from Republicans and Democrats alike, and I didn't feel like such an odd duck. The group seemed to come to a general consensus that solutions that were freely undertaken with no coercion were infinitely preferable to the alternative, although there was some disagreement about what to do if consensual solutions did not suffice. The preacher, who was facilitator, did not want to address the desirability or necessity of the state but to focus on how Christians of various political viewpoints can act together in the work of the Kingdom of God.
I'm thinking that my own advocacy of anarchism should focus less on a hypothetical stateless end state (which I won't live to see) and more on outlining alternative non-coercive solutions to problems. In addition, I can do more to point out problems that are artifacts of the state itself. Maybe a little more praxis and a lot less theory are what I need.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
We roast a turkey several times a year. It's not just for holidays.
For Thanksgiving, I want to roast a goose this year. Or, we might just eat at the Mohonk Mountain House over in the Catskills. It's just the two of us (four if you count Messrs Baggett and Stone who shouldn't eat too much poultry anyway because it gives them the runs). The Mohonk deal includes a day pass to the house and grounds, which are beautiful any time of year. After dinner (lunch to you Yankees), we can walk off our excesses on the hiking paths.